World of Sport

U12s football team calls in sports psychologist

World of Sport

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Football teams these days will do anything to get an edge on their opponents so there is nothing surprising in hearing about one calling in the help of a sport psychologist.

However, what makes the situation unique at Scottish club Hutchison Vale is that their psychologist is trying to improve the performance of their under-12s team — some of whom are just eight years old.

The Edinburgh team has developed Scottish internationals like John Collins and Kenny Miller in the past, but some parents have questioned the club's extreme measures.

A parent, who refused to be named, told the Daily Record: "This is typical Hutchie behaviour - they think they're better than everyone else.

"Everything at that club seems to be geared to pushing the kids towards the professional ranks - a pipe dream for most boys.

"Sure, they maybe get signed for a big club but most of them end up on the scrapheap with little or no job prospects because they've spent their whole lives trying to be footballers.

"I don't know what's wrong with just letting the bairns go out and enjoy themselves."

The club defended the move and said that suitable discussions were held before bringing in the psychologist.

"We spoke to the parents first about using performance psychology and they've been very supportive," said club leader Tam Smith.

"It's about creating positive thinking as opposed to some of the negativity that can come from the parents on the touchline.

"It's a modern way of thinking and we're looking to create the right kind of atmosphere at our club."

The woman who has taken on the task of helping to mentor players throughout the club is 29-year-old performance psychologist Tracy Donachie — the niece of former Scotland and Manchester City star Willie Donachie.

"The youngsters are under huge pressure and I look to help them improve their performance," she told the Record.

"I was asked to work with the under-12s boys team, who are very talented.

"I provided them with eight sessions on various aspects of psychology.

"My sessions included character building, identifying strengths and using them in a positive way, dealing with pressures, self-talk, performance profiling and goal setting, communication, understanding roles and team building.

"I received positive feedback from the boys and I believe the sessions helped the boys build relationships within their team, improved communication and confidence.

"The boys put themselves under a lot of pressure and that also comes from the sidelines.

"I taught them to accept the referee's decision and control their feelings so that they don't get distracted.

"It's about helping the boys improve their self-esteem and overall performance."

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